“Aid initiatives should focus more on the real needs of African people. The Hague Academy courses fit very well in this idea”, says Paul Mbikayi at Africa Day 2010. Paul Mbikayi was one of the speakers at the workshop ‘Localising the MDGs’ about the role of local governments in improving services such as water supply, health care, infrastructure and education.

The workshop, facilitated by Miriam Haagh of the city of Breda, was fully booked and the participants were actively involved in the debate. It covered the issue of international support for good local governance, the actual need for specific aid programmes and the sustainable impact of development initiatives.

Jan Willem Nibbering from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that cooperation with local partners in Africa is crucial for the quality and effectiveness of aid. Harry Nuijten, mayor of Alphen-Chaam, showed how municipal cooperation can lead to sustainable results in the field of health (aids prevention) and civil registration. Jan Willem Nibbering added that the latter is not just and administrative issue but relates to human rights as well: if people are not registered, they have no rights because they simply ‘don’t exist’. Foreign assistance can be very helpful in setting up good registration systems. Cecile Meijs, general manager of The Hague Academy for Local Governance, explained how people working for local government can benefit from international exposure and exchange programmes on topics that they choose themselves.

The panel critically discussed development initiatives and together with the audience concluded that development aid is valuable as long as it is demand driven. In addition, ‘self-reliance’ in developing countries should be stimulated: aid should focus more on development and less on immediate poverty . Especially the thoughts of Paul Mbikayi, the most critical panel member about development work in general, made the debate a lively one. And obviously he does believe that Talent for Governance, offering scholarships to young talented staff of local governments in developing countries, is a great initiative.

Africa Day is organised annually by the ‘Evert Vermeer Stichting’. It is an event full of  interesting debates, workshops and information stands. The Hague Academy was also present with a stand about the Talent for Governance-fund at the information market. Many visitors were interested in the Talent for Governance online network and its scholarship-programme.